GLOBAL – A recent study conducted by McKinsey & Company has unveiled a concerning forecast of an anticipated seafood shortage on a global scale pressing need for innovative and sustainable alternatives
The report titled “The Next Wave: Alternative Seafood Solutions” warns that a projected 14% surge in global demand for seafood by 2030 may necessitate a significant shift towards alternative seafood options.
The demand surge comes as 85% of global fisheries are already operating at or beyond their sustainable limits and restrictions on fish farming further strain traditional seafood supplies.
The study highlights the vulnerability of five popular seafood species; shrimp, tilapia, tuna, salmonids, and lobster, to substitution by alternative seafood products.
Notably, tuna, which is the third-largest seafood market globally, relies heavily on wild-caught fishing, with 99% of tuna sourced this way due to the difficulty of farming. This makes tuna a prime candidate for alternative production methods.
Moreover, the study revealed that alternative seafood options boast a significantly lower carbon footprint, as they can be produced locally. For instance, at the retail level, tuna alone has a carbon footprint of just 0.8 to 0.9 kilograms of CO₂ per kilogram.
McKinsey’s study identified three primary production alternatives; cultivated, fermentation-based, and plant-based products as promising substitutes for traditional seafood due to their similarities, historical investments, and market readiness.
Among these, plant-based alternative seafood products face the fewest regulatory hurdles and have the lowest barriers to market entry, with competitive prices already ranging from US$12 to US$20 per pound in the United States.
Additionally, cultivated products grown from fish cells have attracted substantial investment, totalling US$100 million in the US. The cultivated alternatives closely mimic the taste, texture, and nutritional value of traditional seafood.
“As global seafood demand continues to rise, the need for practical solutions becomes increasingly urgent, with alternative seafood products poised to play a pivotal role in meeting future demand.”
According to Anders Milde Gjendemsjø, an associate partner at McKinsey, alternative proteins have previously focused on chicken, pork, and beef, yet seafood has a competitive advantage over meat as it often sells at a higher price.
“Alternative seafood is also greener to produce, can include the benefits of omega-3s without the high mercury levels in fish and aren’t restricted by fishing quotas or farming licenses,” he noted.
Tom Brennan, a partner at McKinsey, emphasized the importance of innovation to improve taste, nutrition, and cost to achieve wider distribution and reduce pressure on sea and freshwater ecosystems.